Outaouais wardens demand action for latest forestry crisis
Government sends $5.3 million “down the drain” says Warden
During an emergency meeting in Chelsea, November 25, the Outaouais Wardens’ Table (OWT) unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the provincial government to urgently implement transitional measures to ensure the survival of forestry operations in the region.
“The current forestry regime doesn’t allow the Outaouais’ industry to operate in an optimal and profitable manner,” said the group, which is composed of Chantal Lamarche, OWT president and warden of MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau; Benoît Lauzon, Papineau warden and mayor of Thurso, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, mayor of Gatineau; Caryl Green, mayor of Chelsea and MRC-des-Collines-de-l’Outaouais warden, and Jane Toller, MRC Pontiac warden.
“This latest crisis is a serious setback for the Pontiac. We can’t afford to lose the positive momentum we’ve gained in recent years. The future of our region is at stake; we need quick and decisive action,” said Toller.
After the temporary closure of the Thurso Fortress mill was announced on October 7, consequently Lauzon Exclusive Hardwood Flooring announced on November 15 that it would be ceasing logging operations as of November 30.
On November 29, the government announced the implementation of an “exceptional support measure” to reduce the impact of Fortress’ closure on forestry companies in the Laurentians and Outaouais until a permanent solution is found. Up to $5.3 million was allocated to offset the additional costs of transporting wood from these regions to Domtar’s plant in Windsor, Eastern Townships, an extra 300 km haul from the Pontiac.
“It’s a waste of money to fund transportation for such a distance. It’s not practical, not good for the environment, and not a good business plan,” said Toller, noting the MRC Pontiac’s proposed Biomass Conversion Centre offers a solution for proximity processing. “However, we can’t process anything right now, so the government needed to find a location to send the wood. As much as I hate to see money thrown in a black hole, if it puts Pontiac people back to work, it’s a good thing,” she added.
Toller said even half the $5.3 million awarded would be sufficient to get local mills restarted, like the one in Davidson that requires $2.5 million. “We need a new forestry regime and for the Pontiac to be given a chance and put on an even playing field with other regions. It’s time to make every penny count instead of throwing money here and there. It’s time the Pontiac was given a gift too,” she concluded, noting Pontiac forestry workers already find the distance to Thurso too long and tiring, which increases the risk of accidents.
According to Bernard Roy, MRC Pontiac director general, 40% of Fortress’ wood supply comes from the Pontiac.